The Amateur Boxing Association of Thailand (ABAT) has discriminated against a straight boxer for posing suggestively for the cover of a gay magazine.
This is a new take on homophobic discrimination: instead of acting prejudicially against a gay person, the ABAT has discriminated against a non-gay star boxer for posing for the cover of a magazine. How do we know it’s homophobic? The magazine he posed for is a gay magazine, Stage, and for that non-obscene photo the boxing leaders have banned Olympic silver medalist Worapoj Petchkhoon for three months from athletic competition. (See story below and here.)
Appearing in a gay publication does not “present a good image” said boxing officials obviously suggesting the photo is disreputable. What is not clear is what the officials think is good or bad about the photo. If this same photo had appeared in one of the mainstream Thai fashion magazines would the boxing leaders have reacted with such disdain and with strong punishment? It’s doubtful.
That leaves the message rather clear: homosexual magazines are bad and this straight athlete must be punished for the ‘offense’ of appearing in one. In the press conference the president of ABAT said the “reputation of the national athletes had been tarnished”, as if boxing were a sterling sport – which it most definitely is not.
Thai boxing means kick-boxing, for anyone who has seen this sport up close it is a brutal and violent and often bloody sport that’s a couple of notches below the brutal sport of western regular boxing (hands only) and only a couple of notches above cock-fighting. The one Thai boxing match I saw ended when a loud crack was heard and one fighter went down with a broken femur leg bone. He was carried out on a stretcher. How do you “tarnish” a sport as crude and senseless as this, as if it were a graceful sport like figure skating.
This blatant discriminatory and mean-spirited attitude is not dissimilar to the attitude and behavior commonly seen in European football (soccer) matches where certain star players have been verbally abused and demeaned with homophobic slurs by skinhead fans who believe rumors that the players might be gay. (Whether they are or not is no justification for insulting treatment from fans.) Fortunately, urged by human rights activists such as UK’s Peter Tatchell, the British Football Association has begun to combat and prosecute such biased behavior. (Also see this Report.)
Champion boxer Worapoj Petchkhoon deserves more respect and fairer treatment than this over-reactive homophobic banishment for something he was not fully alert to and which harmed no one.
Voice your opposition to this unfair decision:
Thailand Amateur Boxing Federation
154, Rama 1 Road National Stadium BANGKOK , THAILAND
Tel.: +66 2 2169229 Fax: +66 2 2164983
By Ronnie Nathanielsz
August 31, 2009
Thailand’s boxing silver medalist in the Athens Olympic Games, Worapoj Petchkhoon, will not see action in the Southeast Asian Games in Laos in December as he has been banned for three months as a punishment for modeling in a gay magazine.
There were reports that Worapoj appeared nearly naked in the Thai gay magazine STAGE which got the attention of the media as well as the Amateur Boxing Association of Thailand (ABAT).
In a press conference, President of the ABAT, General Thaweep Jantharo said the association had decided to ban Worapoj from the national boxing squad for three months, which will bar him from representing Thailand in the upcoming SEA Games in Laos at the end of this year. Taweep said Worapoj’s images in the gay magazine are not considered obscene, but still they have tarnished the reputation of the national athletes. Taweep stated that national athletes were supposed to present a good image.
Petchkhoom claims he didn’t know it was a gay magazine until halfway through the shoot, when his girlfriend caught on after requests that the boxer wear just underwear: “I did not know the magazine would turn out this way. I thought it would be an ordinary fashion shoot. I am straight, with a girlfriend, but the news has upset my family. Since the magazine appeared, another two gay titles have offered me work, but I turned them down. I meant to show my six pack – not my private parts.” But Worapoj defended his actions claiming the images, including the one on the magazine cover, were “sporty” and not obscene. He also added, “”I regret what happened and would like to apologise to boxing fans. It is one of those life lessons – next time I shall have to be more careful.”